I will start by saying this movie is definitely not a replacement for the live experience; however, it was still quite enjoyable and did bring out some of my emotions, especially towards the end. In fact, I think I felt more invested in the movie during the second half.
If you’re not ready to be sitting in a theater for close to 3 hours of almost non-stop singing, then you may want to steer clear from this movie. For the most part, there isn’t a lot of just plain dialogue.
I think the casting for me was half-hit, half miss. I really liked Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean. There were a few times where the make-up on him was done so well that I almost didn’t recognize it was Jackman. I also really liked Samantha Barks as Éponine. Her solo number was fantastic, not to mention quite memorable. I think out of all the musical numbers, that one stood out to me the most. Daniel Huttlestone, who plays a young boy named Gavroche, was both charming and endearing. His musical numbers stood out to me as well. I also think the filmmakers did a great job with choosing the supporting cast who portrayed the rebellious schoolboys. I really felt a lot of emotion during their failing barricade scene.
As for the characters I weren’t too fond of, for some reason I didn’t really much care for the Cosette-Marius love story, nor was I too invested in Javert or Fantine. The actors portraying each of these characters did a great job, but for some reason I just didn’t find myself really clicking with their characters.
The ending definitely had me in tears, as much as I told myself I wasn’t going to cry. I was surprised at how emotionally invested I had become by the end of the film as opposed to the beginning. I thought the very last scene that the movie closes on was beautiful and sort of bittersweet. Kind of similar to Anna Karenina (2012), the movie is set sort of like a play, but you won’t see anything like changing sets. More like you see certain actors come and go like apparitions without the “ghostly” effects, if that makes any sense. There are also quite a few hilarious scenes that provide the much needed comic relief in between all the dark and dreariness.
I am honestly not sure if I liked this version better than the 1998 Liam Neeson version. I don’t think you can really compare the two though, since from what I remember, the Neeson version was not done in musical form. It was just a dramatic adaptation. It’s been years since I’ve seen it, so I can’t really say for certain, but I think I enjoyed Geoffrey Rush as Inspector Javert a lot better than Crowe in this one. Anyway, after seeing this musical version, it makes me want to go back and watch that older one, which I will probably be doing soon.
I will close by saying that there were a few times where I wished they had included subtitles during some bits, just because not everyone was singing very clearly, so sometimes it was difficult for me to catch what exactly they were saying. I think if I hadn’t already been familiar with the story, I might have gotten a little lost. There were also times where the singers kind of clashed with one another in the musical numbers, making it a little more difficult to concentrate on what was being said. Then again, that might just be a problem I had on my own.
FINAL VERDICT: B+
Whatever your reservations might be, I encourage those who are the least bit curious to give this film a shot. I think it’s at least worth a one-time viewing experience.